Pac-12: Chris Ault

Week 1 primer: Pac-12 North

July, 3, 2012
Week 1 can't get here soon enough. Every team plays an out-of-conference opponent in the first two weeks of the season, so we thought we'd take a quick look at who is coming up in Week 1. We'll go into greater detail as the start of the season draws closer. This is just a primer for those who need their beaks moistened and whistles whet. Earlier today we looked at the South.


Game: at Cal, Saturday, Sept. 1

Coach: Chris Ault (226-103-1, 28th year)

2011 record: 7-6 (5-2, WAC)

Did you know: Another team new to the Mountain West, Nevada returns six starters on offense and seven on defense. The Wolf Pack has been to seven straight bowl games, but also had a significant amount of turnover in the coaching staff this past season. Plus they've lost a lot of defensive linemen from a group that was only 101st in tackles for a loss last year. Dual threat quarterback Cody Fajardo is the one to keep an eye on.


Game: at Oregon, Saturday, Sept. 1

Coach: Gus Malzahn (first year)

2011 record: 10-3 (8-0, Sun Belt)

Did you know: Malzahn won the Broyles Award -- which goes to the nation's top assistant coach -- for his work with Auburn and their title run in 2010-2011. Not that a win would make Oregon feel better for what happened in the title game, but hey, it can't hurt. Returning quarterback Ryan Aplin, who is a three-year starter and has some NFL buzz, owns 16 school records and is the reigning conference player of the year.


Game: at Oregon State, Saturday, Sept. 1

Coach: Charlie Stubbs (5-17, third year)

2011 record: (1-10, 0-7 Southland)

Did you know: The Colonels have lost 10 straight after opening last season with a win over Evangel University. Nicholls State posted a 42-0 victory, but has been outscored 16-38 in its last 10 contests. Stubbs' first full-time coaching gig was at Oregon State, where he started as a receivers and tight ends coach before becoming the Beavers offensive coordinator in 1987.


Game: at Stanford, Friday, Aug. 31

Coach: Mike MacIntyre (6-19, third season)

2011 record: 5-7 (3-4, WAC)

Did you know: This will be the 21st time Stanford has opened its season against the Spartans. The Cardinal are 19-1 in those other meetings and hold a 50-14-1 record in what has now been dubbed the Bill Walsh Legacy Game.


Game: at Washington, Saturday, Sept. 1

Coach: Rocky Long (8-5, second season)

2011 record: 8-5 (4-3, MWC)

Did you know: The Aztecs lost three stars -- QB Ryan Lindley, RB Ronnie Hillman and LB Miles Burris -- to the NFL, but the addition of Pac-12 transfers Ryan Katz (QB, Oregon State) and Brice Butler (WR, USC) give offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig (formerly of Cal) some new firepower. After being bowl-less since 1998 the Aztecs have gone to the postseason in back-to-back years.


Game: Washington State, Thursday, Aug. 30.

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall (66-24, eighth season)

2011 record: 10-3 (independent)

Did you know: Of FBS coaches with at least five years experience, Mendenhall's .733 winning percentage ranks eighth among all coaches -- ahead of names such as Nick Saban and Les Miles. This isn't the only time we'll see BYU this year. They'll renew their rivalry at Utah in Week 3. Mike Leach has also talked extensively about how his time as a BYU student shaped the philosophies he would embrace as a head coach.

Neuheisel: DC will be hired this weekend

February, 10, 2011
Coach Rick Neuheisel said he feels the pain of UCLA fans who are impatient with the belabored process of his hiring a new defensive coordinator, but he said during a teleconference Thursday that he plans to make a decision this weekend.

"I understand the scrutiny," he said. "I understand the perception and all that kind of stuff but at the end of the day, none of that matters. What matters is that we play well next year."

Chuck Bullough was fired Dec. 18, and it has appeared a number of times that Neuheisel was on the cusp of hiring a candidate, whether that was former Miami head coach Randy Shannon or Seattle Seahawks assistant Rocky Seto.

"I've had the guy picked three times now but circumstances have led the search to re-continue," he said.

Neuheisel pursued Vic Fangio, but he opted to follow Jim Harbaugh from Stanford to the San Francisco 49ers. Other reported candidates were Rocky Long, who was promoted to head coach at San Diego State upon the departure of Brady Hoke to Michigan, Chuck Heater and Teryl Austin, former co-coordinators at Florida, and Kentucky co-coordinator Steve Brown.

Reporters asked Neuheisel about Cincinnati Bengals assistant Jeff FitzGerald as well as whether Shannon was still under consideration, but Neuheisel declined to comment on specific candidates.

Questions about the defensive coordinator vacancy dominated the conference call that was arranged to talk about new tight ends and F-backs coach Jim Mastro, who also will oversee the Bruins running game under new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson, who replaced Norm Chow.

"With Mike Johnson working in that throw game and Jim helping in that run department, we're going to be able to put together an offense that we'll all get excited about," Neuheisel said.

Mastro worked 11 years at Nevada, where the pistol offense was invented by coach Chris Ault. UCLA used a pistol scheme last year, but the Bruins ended up ranking last in the Pac-10 in total offense. Neuheisel said that the Bruins won't be a pure pistol team in 2011.

"It will be a portion of our offense, not the be-all, end-all," he said.

As for Neuheisel's vacation this week to Cabo to celebrate his 50th birthday, which inspired some consternation among impatient fans, he called it a "command performance" for his wife.

"I wasn't there long enough to get a tan," he said.

UCLA hires Mastro, fires Howard

February, 10, 2011
UCLA has hired Jim Mastro away from Nevada as a tight ends and F-backs coach and he "will also play a key role in the continued development of the running component of UCLA’s offense that incorporates elements of the Pistol schemes," according to a release from the school.

The school also announced that defensive line coach Todd Howard has been fired, as coach Rick Neuheisel continues a deliberately paced reconfiguring of his staff that has included dismissing both coordinators from 2010, though it appears the candidacy of Steve Brown, presently at Kentucky, for the defensive coordinator vacancy is gaining some traction.

You can read more about Brown's uneasy situation at Kentucky here.

Nevada, under head coach Chris Ault, is where the pistol offense was born, and Mastro has been in Reno 11 years coaching running backs. In five of the last 10 seasons, a Wolf Pack running back has led the WAC in rushing. In the last four years, he has helped Nevada running backs produce five 1,000-yard seasons. This past season, senior Vai Taua recorded his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, finishing seventh nationally with an average of 123.9 yards per contest. As a team, Nevada ranked No. 3 nationally in rushing with an average of 292.2 yards per game. The Wolf Pack led the nation in 2009 and ranked third in 2008.

“Jim has a wealth of knowledge and experience with the Pistol and will be a great asset as we incorporate many of its run-game principles into our offense,” Neuheisel said in a statement. “He has enjoyed great success in the running game and I feel he will work well alongside Mike Johnson (offensive coordinator, wide receivers), Wayne Moses (running backs) and Bob Palcic (offensive line) to give us a very cohesive offensive staff.”

Mastro, 45, also served as Nevada’s recruiting coordinator, where his regions of focus were the Bay Area and Orange County.

Prior to coaching at Nevada, Mastro was on the staff at Idaho for two years (1998-99).

As for Howard, he has coached the Bruin defensive linemen for the past five seasons. He was retained from former coach Karl Dorrell's staff when Neuheisel was hired before the 2008 season.

Neuheisel's statement on letting Howard go, “Todd knew that this was a possibility. We discussed the situation back in December and decided to wait until after recruiting to make a final decision. I feel that it is in the best interest of our program and also in Todd’s best interest that we part ways at this time."

UCLA's offensive staff appears set. The two remaining staff vacancies are on offense: D-line and coordinator.

Opening camp: UCLA

August, 9, 2010
UCLA opens preseason camp today. Here's a quick look.

Who's back: Seven starters on offense, five on defense and both specialists.

Big names: K Kai Forbath, FS Rahim Moore, LB Akeem Ayers, P Jeff Locke

What's new: Clark Lea was promoted from graduate assistant to LBs coach in February. Coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow adopted a "pistol" offense -- Nevada coach Chris Ault created it -- during spring practices. It features an option out of an abbreviated shotgun formation. Two transfers are eligible to play and likely will play a lot: receiver Josh Smith (Colorado) and tight end Joseph Fauria (Notre Dame).

Key competition: What's the pecking order at tailback? Will a veteran such as Derrick Coleman or Johnathan Franklin prevail, or will one of the touted incoming freshman take the lead spot? Two linebacker positions are uncertain: It's junior Steve Sloan versus sophomore Patrick Larimore in the middle and junior Sean Westgate against Glenn Love on the weak side. There are also "or"s on the depth chart between Aaron Hester and Andrew Abbott at right cornerback and Keenan Graham and Iuta Tepa at defensive end.

Breaking out: There are a lot of potential playmakers on offense. At the "F" position, there's Damien Thigpen and Morrell Presley. Smith and Randall Carroll could be legitimate deep threats. Defensive end Datone Jones looked like a force at times in the spring.

Quote: Neuheisel on expectations his team is due for a turnaround: "For the first time since I got to UCLA, we are an experienced football team. That doesn't mean we won't have an infusion of young guys that will still be key players. But we have guys like Rahim, Kevin Prince and Akeem Ayers. These guys have played and played at a high level. And our kicking game is quite possibly the best in the country."

Notes: The Bruins' top two tackles won't be around: Xavier Su'a-Filo is on a two-year Mormon mission, while Nik Abele was forced to retire because of neck problems. ... JC transfer Darius Bell might offer an athletic option at QB. ... Three incoming freshmen were kicked off the team for allegedly stealing a purse and are headed elsewhere: cornerback Shaquille Richardson (Arizona), LB Josh Shirley (Washington) and receiver Paul Richardson (perhaps Colorado).